It all began with an old VHS dance tape from a Goodwill in Spokane.
This is how Ben White, owner of Eastside Stomp, first got interested in dancing.
“I was probably 18 years old. My friends and I decided to learn off of the dance tape and then we started traveling. We found Lindy Hop and moved to Seattle to do more,” he said.
After moving to Seattle, White met Peter Flahiff, a swing dance teacher from Los Angeles who was looking to open a swing dance venue on the Eastside.
“He saw a need for people to be themselves and dance on the Eastside. He needed someone who was fired up enough to promote it for him and he pulled me in as his promoter guy and we started it up,” White said.
Eastside Stomp was launched in 2008 and is held at the Aria Ballroom in Redmond. Since then, it has developed a large following of people, those who are professional dancers to those who are absolute beginners.
White described the swing dance community as “one big happy family.”
“The swing dance community has a really unique thing where you can go to any country in the world and as long as you want to dance, you’re going to have a couch to sit on and a group of people that are excited to see you. I’m really excited to help teach other people about that and include them in that family,” he said.
Members of the swing dance community view Eastside Stomp as one of their favorite venues.
“I love the casual atmosphere, that you can dress as informal or formal as you like. The people are incredibly friendly and are very willing to help new dancers. There’s such a wide range of beginning to experienced dancers,” said Marissa Johnston. “As a natural introvert, it’s a great way for me to meet new people who already have a mutual interest in swing dancing. And it’s probably my most fun way of getting exercise.”
“I really appreciate how laid back and fun the atmosphere is. There is no pressure. It’s good old-fashioned fun and gives you a taste of what life was like in the ‘40s. It’s my kind of place,” Aleah Bright said. “No matter your age, dancing isn’t bound by time. It’s a mix of all ages having a great time. I think it’s really the best thing to do on a Friday night with friends.”
After nine years of doing regular Friday night social dances, classes and private lessons, Eastside Stomp is becoming a nonprofit organization called Syncopation Foundation. The Syncopation Foundation will help children be able to learn and access dance in their schools.
“It’s really exciting to be able to access kids who would not have this experience, to those who may not find that VHS tape,” said the executive director of Syncopation Foundation, Amanda Miller.
Eastside Stomp will still be the name of the venue and will still host its weekly dances and lessons, but Syncopation Foundation will be the overarching name. Syncopation Foundation is set to go live within the next few weeks.
“The contributions that are given to the classes and the dances not only are supporting the teachers, the venue and the musicians, but also supporting an overall structure and giving back to the community,” Miller said. “They’re going to be the very first investors in something truly special.”